How to defeat porch pirates' latest scam

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) - Package scams have been a trick pulled by criminals for years, and we want to tell you about a new spin that could leave you on the hook for very expensive items you never purchased.

This latest effort by "porch pirates" to steal your hard earned cash involves one crime piled on another.

It begins with identity theft. Crooks steal a your credit card information, then buy expensive item and have them sent to your address.

The first sign something is wrong you get is when you get the package. You are puzzled by its arrival, and your instinct is to return it.

So you call the delivery service, asking them to return the item to the sender.

Here's how the scam works:

Because the criminals have used your stolen ID and credit card information to order the package, they've used a fake return address when ordering the item.

When the delivery service takes the package back from you, you think it's going back to the place of purchase. In reality, it's going to the criminals who ordered the package, because they've who have used their own address for returns.

Soon, you get a credit card bill for an item you never purchased and thought you'd returned for a credit.

It's a scam so new that a lot of consumers have never heard of it and don't know how to thwart it.

Mike O'Connor of Apex said, "It's scary, to be honest with you, because it seems like an easy scam to pull off."

He also said he's not sure how he would defend himself against a scam like that.

"I think about (identity theft) constantly, but don't have a good solution."

Here's how you can protect yourself;

  • Never return an unordered package by delivery carrier
  • Personally return it to the retail location where it was ordered (so you can get the refund applied to your credit card).
  • Set up your credit card to provide real-time purchase alerts

With real time alerts, you'll know if something was ordered in your name. If you see an item you didn't order, you'll know your card information was compromised and you can work with credit card companies to deal with the situation.

Email CBS North Carolina's Steve Sbraccia if you have a consumer issue.

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